The Gift of Adversity by Dr Norman E. Rosenthal
September 14, 2013
Full title: The Gift of Adversity: The Unexpected Benefits of Life’s Difficulties, Setbacks, and Imperfections
Length: 352 pages
Author: Norman E. Rosenthal
One of the ways by which to find out more about Transcendental Meditation is to learn about the people who practice the technique.
In this sense, Norman E Rosenthal’s (M.D.) The Gift of Adversity: The Unexpected Benefits of Life’s Difficulties, Setbacks, and Imperfections is a great read for those interested in finding out what kind of mind-set Transcendental Meditation helps to cultivate.
In this book the noted research psychiatrist explores how life’s disappointments and difficulties provide us with the lessons we need to become better, bigger, and more resilient human beings. In other words, Dr Rosenthal shows how you can turn your life’s inevitable downs into instructive ups.
To make his point from different angles, the author uses extensive autobiographical narrative – drawing on lessons from his own life as well as the lives of those around him.
WATCH VIDEO: Dr. Norm’s presentation “Handling Adversity” at Ray Dalio‘s company, Bridgewater
In dark and tough times, meditate
Transcendental Meditation specifically is discussed as a topic in the chapter “The gift of meditation”. The chapter begins with Dr Norman Rosenthal’s acknowledgment that having taken up the practice of Transcendental Meditation – funnily enough, this happened as he followed advice from one of his patients! – altered the course of his thinking and his career. This fact will of course come as no surprise to those who have read Dr Norman Rosenthal’s previous book, Transcendence, and know to which extent he has partaken in increasing scientific knowledge on the impact of Transcendental Meditation.
Among other stories in this chapter on meditation, Dr Rosenthal retells the story of a man he calls Splash – a guy who used to be a homeless drug addict. Having recovered from his addiction, Splash took up a job as a supervisor at a charity centre for homeless and former prisoners. Considering the intensity and difficulty of his job no wonder he felt drained of energy by the end of his workday. What Transcendental Meditation gave this man who had already demonstrated great talent for overcoming adversity was more energy, patience and tolerance not only for his workdays but also for the evening family time.
This story serves as a nice example of how Transcendental Meditation can not only pull people out of desperate situations but also help those who are survivors by nature. It can help them to give and to live to an even greater extent than before.
For more stories on Transcendental Meditation practitioners, including Dr Norman Rosenthal himself, and for several eloquently rendered lessons in life, get the book and enjoy!
EXCERPT from The Gift of Adversity: The Unexpected Benefits of Life’s Difficulties, Setbacks, and Imperfections
„It has been said that you cannot become a master sailor on calm seas; so too you cannot navigate life successfully without learning how to handle adversity. To be sure, adversity is by its very nature painful and unwelcome. The trick then is how to move beyond these initial feelings and find something of value in the experience. That is the essence of this book: Put simply, the lessons embedded in these stories are the sweet uses of adversity. What does not kill us, to para-phrase Nietzsche, makes us stronger—but only if we learn from our mistakes and misfortunes.
It makes sense from an evolutionary point of view that we have the innate tools for such learning. Those ancient ones who learned best from danger, obstacles, setbacks, and reversals of fortune were more likely to survive long enough to transmit their DNA to future generations. Even so, although our ability to learn from adversity may be a highly selected trait, it can no doubt be greatly improved by experience and guidance, as I hope this book will show.“
WATCH VIDEO: Interview with Bob Roth which serves as a beautiful introduction to the book:
“Adversity is by far the best teacher most of us will ever encounter!”
Explaining the motivation behind a book which centres on such a seemingly negative and disenchanting phenomenon as adversity, Dr Norman Rosenthal says:
“The simple way of looking at adversity is that it is really bad news and something to be avoided. I would rather not have adversity. However, as I personally looked over the lessons of my life it occurred to me that what I learn the most from, was when things went wrong. That led me to think that this is perhaps a general principle – that although we don’t want adversity and we rightfully avoid it, we can’t really escape it. It is an inherent part of life, and so since we are going to get it anyway what can we do with it, what can we make out of adversity that actually turns it into a gift?”
Here’s a story from The Gift of Adversity — “Hidden Marijuana, Hidden Fears” – illustrated by evocative pictures and winding to an unexpected conclusion. Retold by the author himself, it serves as an uncontested proof of his story-telling abilities:
The aim of the book is to show how to:
- Accept that the adversity has occurred
- Proportion your response according to the nature of the adversity
- Analyze the situation
- Regulate your physical and emotional state – for example, by keeping regular hours of sleeping and waking, eating regular meals, exercising and meditating
- Reach out for help – to family, friends or even kindly strangers
- Turn your predicament into a story – to help you process it
- Reframe the adversity – think about it in a different way
Praise for The Gift of Adversity:
“Dr Norman Rosenthal catalyzes conversations around adversity with tales of wisdom and survival that we can all treasure.” — Mehmet C. Oz, M.D., host of The Dr. OZ Show
“Dr. Norm is a cosmonaut of consciousness, launching into the murky abyss and returning with meteoric treasures for us all. His writing on the value of adversity may come to be regarded by Alien archeologists as a Rosetta Stone in understanding how we advance as individuals and as a culture.” — Russell Brand, actor
“In this timely and beautifully written work, renowned psychiatrist and best-selling author Norman Rosenthal tells intriguing stories that converge on an important theme–that many of life’s greatest lessons and joys aren’t the products of perfection, but the gifts of adversity. Each short chapter is its own delicious dish in a wonderful feast of a book.” — Marci Shimoff, #1 NY Times bestselling author, Happy for No Reason, Love For No Reason, and Chicken Soup for the Woman’s Soul
“I really loved Norman’s book—and I agree that adversity can be a great teacher and a great friend.” — David Lynch, filmmaker